To the Air Force Academy Class of 2020 joining the Long Blue Line,
We in Two Blue Aces salute those young men and women who threw their hats in the air last Saturday at the Air Force Academy as the Thunderbirds flew overhead. In a letter to the class, we encouraged each one of them to pause and reflect on the joy of a completed journey with friends to their left and right. Those friends and graduates will be the first true wingmen in their lives, and their flight paths will cross again and again in incredible places around the world for many years to come. We also offered each new Lieutenant some suggestions for their journey through life that awaits them during an Air Force career.
Here are 10 suggestions for developing strong leadership qualities:
1. Be a good wingman on day one as a U.S. Air Force/Space Force officer! Master the skills of followership FIRST-this will become the basic foundation of your leadership style and it will make you a successful commander down the road.
2. Make sure your team clears the Near Rocks first…while always planning for the upcoming Far Rocks - plot your course by committing to the team’s goals and objectives; your success will follow as a result of each successful mission.
3. Always evaluate your life experiences using a thorough debrief, and by careful development of lessons learned; use them in future decisions since they are the critical ingredient of continuous improvement.
4. Competent leaders readily admit their mistakes so everyone can learn from them; they always set the bar high and enforce standards. Great leaders understand history but focus on the future; they make it a point to show subordinates the way forward by their own example.
5. Leaders listen intently to their subordinates’ inputs and always honor the sacrifices of their teammates; and most importantly, they always display moral strength and courage under difficult circumstances.
6. Courageous officers always lead from the front, even in the heat of battle. They understand both the risks and rewards of a potential course of action, and they keep themselves physically and morally fit at all times.
7. Good officers make time to show genuine concern for their people and family members; compassionate leaders don’t fear wearing their feelings on their sleeve at appropriate times.
8. The Air Force core values are the bond that holds the Long Blue Line together; without them we lose our identity and respect as the nation’s guardian.
9. Remember to have fun along the way - Don’t be afraid to enjoy life and do relaxing things. Your Air Force career will often be stressful and sometimes even dangerous, so whenever you can schedule some relaxing, fun things to do, you’ll develop proper balance in your life.
10. Never forget where you came from! – remember your “doolie” beginnings and always be humble, approachable and credible. This ‘service to your nation’ is a privilege you’ve earned as a member of the Class of 2020 and now part of the Long Blue Line.
There will be many more challenges for these military leaders besides COVID-19 in the years to come. Nothing will be more valuable to help them get through tough times than the power of their relationships. Because of the common background and shared foundations from their academy experience, USAFA graduates are able to walk into environments, teams, situations and projects with core values that are weaved into their lives making it easy to move forward together collaborating to make a difference.
AFA Class of 2020 -- always keep the “Target in Sight!” Congratulations and Godspeed.